Hello Europe! Part II
Read Part I of our adventures here! The European Study Abroad: The Netherlands continues…
Day 5: Markt!
This morning we started early with a special guest lecturer by Mr. Han Koning, the Director of the Communications Expertise Center and the Editor-in-Chief of TU/e’s two publications: Cursor, the bi-weekly newspaper, and Slash, the news magazine. Hearing behind-the-scenes stories of firsthand experience, particularly in corporate branding and the technical strategy behind publication was enthralling.
Afterwards we experienced our first outdoor market! It was a scary, yet exhilarating experience. Stalls filled with fabric, cheese, and antiques lined the streets and people haggled back and forth in fast-paced Dutch. My favorite part was the flower merchants—buckets and buckets were overflowing with every kind of flower imaginable. My friend bought a flower bouquet of pink, lacey peonies for the equivalent of $15! I happen to know for a fact that the same bouquet in Florida would cost well over $90!
Day 6: Amsterdam!
We left Eindhoven bright and early at 8am to Amsterdam! Amsterdam is a city on the other side of the country—but because the Netherlands is small, it only takes two hours by train to get to! There are two Amsterdam stations, so we were slightly confused about which station to get off at, but thankfully we chose the right one (when in doubt, always get off at the station that has a variation on the word “central” in it). Despite being infamous for its red light district, that is only a very, very, very small fraction of Amsterdam. Canals run through the city like streets, and centuries of history have made the city a cultural center for Europe. The Diary of Anne Frank chronicles Anne’s two years in hiding in Germany-occupied Amsterdam during WWII. Today, her hideaway is a museum left to honor the memory of the courageous girl. On the other side of the city, the Van Gogh museum hosts the Dutch artist’s masterpieces. After spending the day museum-hopping, we were all too soon headed on the train back to Eindhoven.
Day 7: Culture Study & Utrecht!
This morning we were treated to a lecture by special guest speaker Professor Vincent Merk. It was an intensive crash-course in Dutch culture and international communication challenges and solutions. After examining Hofstede’s dimensions and examining the differences between American and Dutch culture (more of that here), we had a free afternoon. One of my best friends from my first Master’s degree from Trinity College, Dublin, happens to live in Utrecht, the third largest city in the Netherlands, and only two train stations away from Eindhoven—so of course I had to visit him! After a slight mishap as to our meeting point, one of the first mistakes I learned was that I have been pronouncing Eindhoven completely wrong. I’ve been saying “EYE-nd-hoe-ven.” You swallow the final “N” in the correct pronunciation, so it’s something closer to “Eind-hoe-vuh.” Utrecht is one of my favorite cities in the Netherlands. It reminds me of Venice, because canals and waterways run like veins through the city. The streets are lined with shops established in the 1700s—hard to imagine when it feels like most of Melbourne was built after 1950! Feeling like a pro, we hopped on the train back to Eindhoven before it got dark—which is around 11:30 at night!
Day 8: Brussels!
Today we checked out of the Crown Inn and headed out of the Netherlands, to their southern neighbor Belgium. Brussels is the headquarters of the UN, and considered the Capitol of Europe. It is the second greenest city (surprisingly Washington D.C. is the first!). This city is home to two of my favorite things: the grand plaza, and authentic Belgian waffles! The plaza is breathtaking—when you stand in the center of the square, you are surrounded on four sides by architecture that is so beautiful that it is almost overwhelming. One side of the square is lined with Guild Halls (today, most of which have been converted into restaurants). During their golden age, the Guild Halls were in constant competition trying to outdo each other with the splendor and elaborateness of the building facades. We enjoyed a day meandering through the city and exploring the historic, well-trod streets.
Day 9: Brugge!
Having seen the movie In Bruges, I thought I knew what I was getting into—wrong,wrong, wrong! The movie makes it appear that Brugge is a tiny village wrapped around a clock tower. I was under the impression the entire village was at most six blocks across. Imagine my surprise when we continually stumbled upon market square after market square, with gorgeous basilicas and towering ornate buildings. We ventured into the Basilica of the Holy Blood, which contains a relic of a piece of the cross covered with Jesus’ blood. In addition to religions relics, the city is famous for two other specialties—chocolate and tapestries. Chocolate shops, tapestry manufacturers, and lace weavers line the streets in greater abundance than Starbucks and McDonalds in the US. You literally cannot go fifteen feet without encountering one of these types of shops. The quality of the chocolate, tapestry, and lace is unparalleled—even a novice such as myself was able to tell I was in the presence of true masters of the craft. We took a canal tour of the city, and our guide looked like a younger Antonio Banderas!
Stay tuned for Part III!